Thursday, November 30, 2006

Day 79: Hugging Counterparts

Gracie told me yesterday, "Libby, having a counterpart will make all the difference in your work as a Peace Corps volunteer."

Today my counterpart and I participated in an HIV/AIDS training focused on Prevention and No Discrimination of AIDS, and in so doing reached a new level of work counterpart relationship. Iris, the facilitator from World Vision warned us that by agreeing to participate in her dinámica that we must be willing to share personal parts of our lives, that it might be hard...that we might cry.

She asked us to think about and write down on 16 pieces of colored paper our 'most importants' (people, dreams, hobbies, & material objects). And then one-by-one she took them away from us - insinuating that this is what an AIDS patient would also be going through.

By the end of the exercise I was left with LWell in a Seliga canoe, knitting, and a job that I truly loved, not bad considering that the virus had stripped the rest from me. But I cried. I was holding it in pretty successfully until the facilitator asked my counterpart what AIDS had taken from her and she replied through her tears, 'mi hija' (my daughter). At that point the dams were lifted and the river flowed.

To close the exercise, we were asked to take the hands of someone who inspired compassion within us. And although it is only my third day in this community and I hardly know my counterpart, I felt comfortable taking her hands and committing myself to this relationship.

But then the facilitator told us of the importance of the bear hug - how it makes people feel good, inspires trust and confianza, and raises self-esteem. She asked us to close our eyes and hug our partner for the duration of a song played on computer speakers. Oh to be a fly on that wall... I'm at least a head taller than my counterpart, my snotty nose was running into her hair, we were swaying to the music partly because of the difficulty to balance in the hug position. Not only that, the hug lasted over 5 minutes.

I hugged my counterpart for over 5 minutes on my 3rd day in site. What an adventure this will be.